Introducing the Sharkbait VW T4 Campervan
My liking of Volkswagen vehicles has been with me since my school days, I remember the excitement every time a new issue of Volksworld was released. I was sure my first car was going to be a classic Beetle, I really liked the California look at the time (mid 1980s).
As with so many things in life, my dream of owning a VW as soon as I passed my test was dashed. When I suggested to my parents I wanted a Beetle for my first car I was quickly told that would not happen, “Son, you need something more reliable and easy to fix!”, I ended up with a 1984 Ford Escort 1.3L which I did actually like. Of course being able to drive and the freedom that went with it was no doubt the main reason for my liking towards it.
By now, I was in regular work. My jobs usually required a need for a simple practical car so I moved to a 1992 Ford Fiesta, then a 1989 Ford Escort followed by a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier GL, a 1997 Renault Laguna, a 1997 Peugeot 306TD, a 2001 Lexus IS200 Sport and finally a 2004 Audi A4. The A4 was the first time I had bought a vehicle with my personal life more in mind than my work. By this time I was camping away a bit, having not long been introduced to surfing. Problem was, it was a 1.8T petrol, it would cost a fortune to travel to Devon and the surfboards ended up on the roof anyway so I could have got away with something much smaller. Besides, I never really got attached to the Audi, it was plagued with problems since I bought it.
The A4 was bought in summer 2010, but it was sold at the beginning of 2011 when I finally decided I hated using a tent but wanted to continue going to North Devon for the weekends and learn to surf. The decision was done and with the Audi sold I was running around in an old Nissan Almera I bought for a few hundred pounds while looking for a van. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with that car and made a couple of hundred pounds when I sold it, result!
After a couple of months of scouring eBay, Autotrader, Gumtree and the like, I came across this white T4 in Nottingham which looked tidy and ticked nearly all my boxes. I didn’t want a van which had any modifications, being that I wanted to see that through myself. I had previously renovated a flat, landscaped my garden with koi pond and now needed a new project. The advert read “The first person to offer me the full asking price can take it”, the price was £2,800 and having seen a fair few vans about I went for it. Offer accepted and I planned a visit to pick it up on Easter Saturday 2011.
My friend David drove me up to Nottingham, we took a look over the van and it seemed all ok. The seller, who used it for his mobile disco, had told me he had subsequent calls offering more than his asking price, I believe he would have, the van was really tidy. The only thing that did concern me was the brake warning light on the dashboard but the brakes seemed fine and I took off back to Wiltshire.
The drive back from Nottingham was fantastic actually, I have to say from that point on I knew I was going to love this van. Apart from the alloy wheels there was nothing modified, the suspension was high and it did tend to roll a bit but the new driving height was excellent, particularly on the A343 between the A34 and Andover. The one box the van didn’t tick was the engine, ideally I would have gone for the 2.5tdi, but I was soon over that as I thought it was a lot better than I feared.
First thing I did when I got home to Amesbury was put some fuel in, it was after doing this that I was welcomed to the world of a “reliable” Volskwagen T4, not! The words of my dad from buying my first car rang in my mind. I tried starting the van but it just wouldn’t turn over, nothing, nada. Fortunately I had arranged breakdown cover and it wasn’t long before the recovery truck arrived. A little bit of tinkering and the recovery chap discovered there was no power getting to the starter motor, he got the van going using a piece of wire and I drove it home, knowing I would need to look over the van first thing in the morning, it was now dark and quite late.
Next morning I was out taking the van apart, I had already discovered the web site “VW T4/T5 Forum”, and I knew it was going to be a saviour for me. On a bit of diagnoses I realised the ignition switch was faulty. Just a few quid and a day later it was fitted and my troubles were over, or the first one was anyway.
I already had ideas of how I was going to convert the van, but now I had the actual vehicle which meant I could start taking measurements and planning for real.
The overall look of the van was inspired by something not Volkswagen at all, in fact it was the Range Rover sport. When looking for ideas I came across a photo of Range Rover sport with a black and ivory interior, I really liked it and decided to base my build on this.
The build began, starting with ironing out a few problems and then crafting and designing my way to a full campervan. The full build thread can be found on the VW T4 Forum site (Click here).
Below are some images of the interior which were sent to DVLA to register as a motorcaravan.
As I write this article, I have not had the van for several weeks. The build was complete last year and I have covered many miles since, enjoying great weekends and longer away experiencing the campervan lifestyle. The only problem with this is the less pleasant side, the fact that vehicles need maintenance and fixing. Since the beginning of January 2015, the van has had a gearbox rebuild and is now having a leaky fuel pump fixed. Hopefully though, it will be back on the road by this coming weekend.
Next plan is to add some Autosport side skirts and to get the odd knock and ding touched up before I do a full photo shoot all around the UK.
I will be using this site to post further developments with the van, including updates on locations, modifications and general campervan lifestyle views. I hope anybody reading this finds it useful and inspiring, just as I found many that lead me to this point.